Australia, who booked their place in the final of this year’s Davis Cup last Friday, will no doubt be surprised to learn that their opponents for the 123-year-old competition will be Italy and not Serbia as many expected.
It was a great match. At the end of the match, I was really happy for the team to be at least able to play a deciding doubles. You know, we played really good, and I think it was a really positive day today Jannik Sinner
And even more surprising is the defeat of Novak Djokovic in the second singles when his appearance on court, usually guarantees a point, and, on this occasion, would have taken Serbia through to the champion settling round after Miomir Kecmanovic came back from a set down to defeat Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(7) 6-1 6-1 to give the Serb’s the early advantage in the three rubber tie in Malaga.
Kecmanovic did a great job to get the ball rolling in favour of his team, especially in recovering from an opening set loss following a tight tie-break, to romp through the next two for the loss of just two games to claim that first point.
With Djokovic to follow, the tie and a place in the final was surely assured!
But No! Jannik Sinner, the world No.4, had other ideas. Not only did he want to lead Italy to a Davis Cup final for the first time, he also wanted to avenge his loss to the world No.1 in the title round of the ATP Finals last Sunday.
In fact, Saturday’s encounter was their third in a fortnight with the two sharing a win apiece so, while Djokovic had the psychological advantage and greater experience, Sinner seemingly had the greater motivation.
And it proved to be a blockbuster- a three setter lasting two-hours and 35-minutes in which Sinner saved three match points before serving out to secure a 6-2 2-6 7-5 victory, his second win over the Serb in six career meetings.
‘It was a roller coaster,” Sinner said of his victory. “I was starting off really well. Second set he played much better than me. Third set I tried to serve really well, and also on match points down I served well.
“Happy to still be in the competition. We were one point away from being out.”
The tie therefore went to a deciding doubles match and in view of its importance, both captains sent out their star players to continue their battle for supremacy: Djokovic with Kecmanovic while Sinner partnered Lorenzo Sonego.
Ultimately it was a straightforward win for the Italian duo, who triumphed 6-3 6-4 for an overall 2-1 victory in the tie, and a place in Sunday’s final – their eighth appearance there – against Australia (in their 49th!), the last occasion being two months ago when they lost to Canada.
Commenting after the tie, Sinner added: “Match of my life, I don’t know, but it’s for sure very important. It helps a lot that the last competition of the season is a team competition, because you get a lot of energy from your teammates, from the whole team, and then the crowd is different too. I really enjoyed playing today. It was a great match. At the end of the match, I was really happy for the team to be at least able to play a deciding doubles. You know, we played really good, and I think it was a really positive day today.”
The Italian team captain, Filippo Volandri was more than grateful for his No’.1’s contribution, declaring: “Jannik gives us a lot of energy; gives us a lot of confidence in ourselves. He’s a great player, but he’s not only a great player; he’s a great person. That’s what I like. So, yeah, he’s probably in the first position to play tomorrow (smiling).”
It will be an intriguing final.